Interview: Managing Successful R&D Projects in the Life Sciences Sector

11. March 2016

Dr. Markus Henrich, Managing Director of HENRICH Pharma-R&D Consulting, offers his hinsights on the (still perfectible) R&D management processes.


Dr. Henrich, as the founder and owner of HENRICH Pharma-R&D Consulting, you advise the life sciences industry in research & development (R&D) management – why?

Science is the essential foundation of any success in life sciences R&D – this is where my clients’ expertise lies. Adding management tools and techniques into the mix makes the path to success easier – and that is my area of expertise. By combining the two, we can reduce resource requirements, losses and complexity while at the same time enabling more innovation. These are the ways in which my clients benefit from my work.

But aren’t there already many management techniques out there?

Established management tools and techniques in their traditional form are often not appropriate for R&D. Imposing a normal “lean production” or “lean management” concept on R&D organisations can be a real nightmare. Yet the fundamental principle of the “lean” concept, namely avoiding waste, is also very important for R&D. As a life scientist and experienced R&D manager, I feel at home in both worlds. I am therefore able to adapt existing standard concepts to the specific requirements of R&D and also to my clients’ individual needs.

Dr. Henrich, Managing Director of HENRICH Pharma-R&D Consulting

One of your focuses is R&D outsourcing – why is this?

Outsourcing R&D activities is a critical issue for the life sciences industry. All companies rely on external expertise, the degree of this externalisation varies greatly, at between 20% and 100%, and annual investment is in the tens of billions. Outsourcing is consequently a critical success factor. However, surveys have revealed that there is great dissatisfaction with the results of outsourcing. This is where I bring my services to the table. After all, my clients directly benefit from said improvements, be it reduced losses, fewer resources or improved quality for the services.

What are the most important steps in outsourcing?

As trivial as it sounds, the initial success factors for outsourcing are the selection of an appropriate partner and a quantifiable definition of the client’s needs. Let’s take as an example an electronic data room for business development activities. What features should this data room have? The first to come to mind would probably be: security, flexibility and price. True, but these are not effective selection criteria because every data room provider “guarantees” security. It is important to think more broadly until you can define measurable parameters such as, in this case, server location, level of encryption, secure document management, user management, and so on.

That is a great deal of effort...

That’s right. For this reason, it is important to concentrate on the relevant outsourcing activities. A simple risk assessment is helpful in this respect, with regard to costs, influence on the project and duration, for example. I might be using a data room for a long time, so if I make a mistake when choosing the right provider, the consequences will be a nuisance. A data room contains information pertaining to intellectual property. The security of this is of vital importance to the project’s success, and should only be entrusted to a carefully selected partner. A data room is an important outsourcing activity, so the appropriate partner must be chosen judiciously.

Is there anything else to take into consideration when selecting a partner?

Yes, a great deal. A list is available to download on my homepage at www.dr-henrich.com that provides a helpful overview. Quality is an important aspect: how is “quality” defined for a particular outsourcing project, how is this evaluated and how is underperformance dealt with? Another important feature, which is often overlooked, is the internal cost of outsourcing: for project management, quality control, communication and re-integration of outsourced work. Let’s stay with the example of a data room – uploading files to the data room, quality checks, security management and user management are all potential drains on resources. Intelligent solutions in these areas offered by data room providers can reduce this burden on resources, which means that these are also an important selection criterion.